Everest North Side Base Camp
Arrival at Everest
We arrived at Chinese Everest base camp, 5,150m, a week ago. It is a flat, sprawling expanse of rocky rubble, with view of the Tibetan plateau to the north, tall hills to the east and west, and Mt. Everest’s incredible north face to the south. Our camp is tucked under a moraine in an attempt to minimize the frequent wind that blows through camp and we have to walk 100m or so to get the view of Mt. Everest, but maybe it’s better this way? The mountain looks really, really big, and it is still 25km distance and 3.7 vertical kilometres above our heads. Best not to look too often! Seriously, though, the north face of Everest is truly spectacular.
There are a lot of people in base camp! Some estimate that there will be 150 international climbers on the north side this year - double last year’s numbers. In addition, almost all of them will have a Sherpa climbing partner with them. Our intended route shares the start with the regular NE Ridge, so we will not be alone! Hopefully there will be enough space at the 7,000m and 7,600m camps. If conditions allow Ralf and I to climb the Norton Couloir, we will be on our own for high camp at about 8,200m (!)
The GMC of the Himalaya?
Our set up in base camp reminds me a lot of the ACC’s General Mountaineering Camp. We have a cook tent, cooking staff, dining tent, outhouse and shower tent. The differences are that we are at 5,150m, surrounded by a few hundred people, woken up by the ringing of yak bells and the occasional music-blaring motorcycle used by the Tibetans to commute back and forth to Tingri, and we are staring up at the north face of the tallest mountain on the planet. Other than those few details, it so far feels like a GMC. :-)
The German AMICAL alpin group we are with are a great group of people and fun to hang out with. All three of us ladies in the group are climbing without supplemental oxygen - this is inspiring for me! Only five women have climbed Everest without bottled oxygen.
Basecamp life and highlife
Some of the camps here are really extravagant. A Swiss and Russian group come to the north side every year. Each year they try to outdo each other in terms of creature comforts. Both have two massive dome tents with big screen TV’s, karaoke, foosball, billiards, (fake) palm trees and big windows that face Everest, complete with reclining chairs. They have an open bar, unlimited wifi and a volleyball court - which only the Sherpas use because they are the only ones with enough energy. The Russian company hosts a party each year in one of their dome tents. Last year, over 100 people attended. They provided all the food, booze, and music, and finished it off with a fireworks display. Yes, all the rumours you’ve ever heard about the Everest base camps are true! The exception to that statement is that base camp is really clean. The only garbage I’ve seen are a few items which have accidentally blown out of camp.
The staff with our group are great. There are five Sherpas who will climb with all members of the group except for Ralf and I. The Sherpas are all really nice and quite shy. It is fun to get to know them - about their families, how many times they’ve climbed Everest (all have multiple ascents), where they live, etc. One Nepalese cook and four Tibetan kitchen helpers are keeping us well fed and watered. This morning, we hung out with a bunch of Tibetan yak drivers who took some of our gear up to advance base camp at 6,400m. We had a lot of laughs with them - mostly over which was the safest yak for me to pet and whether Ralf and I wanted to buy a very rare and unique necklace (amazingly similar to ones we had already been offered by several other Tibetans in previous days).
Acclimatizing for the climb
Acclimatizing has been going well, although I’ve had a couple of ups and downs. Sleeping has been difficult for me some nights. It is vitally important for the acclimatization process, so I’ve had a couple of low energy days. Luckily, we aren’t really doing anything but acclimatizing, so being lazy is okay. I’m listening to Wade Davis’ Into the Silence right now on audiobook. It is about the history of the first attempts on Everest by the British in the 1920’s. Good book - I recommend it!
The Rongbuk Monastery
We spent a day at the Rongbuk and Rongpu Monasteries. Ralf and I were lucky to be the only visitors at the Rongbuk Monastery, and the nuns let us sit with them for two hours! They were praying and chanting for quite a while when we first got there, then they took a break and asked us to take photos and video of them (which we happily did, of course!)! They liked to look at the images on our camera screens - it made me wonder if they ever get to look in a mirror.
The mountain ahead
We’ve been for one hike up to 5,700m and it felt good. The views were amazing! Everest, Nuptse, Khumbutse and Pumori were all glorious under blue skies. Ralf went for another hike yesterday, but I decided to lay low in camp.
Three days from now, we will move up to intermediate camp at about 5,800m for two nights, then to advance base camp at 6,400m. We’ll be there several nights before making our first trip up to the North Col at 7,000m.
As we are heading to the land of expensive internet transmission, my posts will be shorter and with fewer pictures.
Many companies and individuals have sponsored Nancy’s Everest trip, and she is extremely grateful!
Plus dozens of friends and strangers!